Sometimes being vegetarian can mean giving up some of your favourite dishes. Especially with everyone’s love for mala these days, it is easy to feel left out when you are stuck with a bowl of lacklustre greens while your friends are swarming around with their bowls of meat piled high.
But what if we told you vegetarian mala exists? And not just any vegetarian mala, but one that is constantly touted as a frontrunner for the best mala xiang guo in Singapore?
Photo Credit: https://www.facebook.com/GreenOnEarth/
Hidden in the West is a small corner shop called Green on Earth. The place is unassuming, with a storefront reminiscent of a modern but otherwise typical zi char store. What does catch one’s eye, however, is the mix of customers: the working crowd, the elderly, and even secondary school students.
We had our reservations when we were first introduced to this restaurant, but seeing the place filled with people of all ages on a weeknight partially alleviated our doubts.
Although Green on Earth is predominantly a zi char stall, like many other customers, we were there for only one thing: their famed, super spicy, mala xiang guo.
By the ordering counter, there is a small but well-stocked shelf for customers to choose their ingredients from at the rate of S$3 per 100g of ingredients. Besides the wide array of fresh and vibrant greens, what drew our attention was the sheer variety of mock meats – everything from mock mutton to mock char siu – and how they were lovingly crafted to resemble their original inspirations.
(After seeing how enthusiastic we were with our pickings, the counter staff kindly suggested that perhaps nearly 1.4kg of ingredients is a little too hefty for a party of two. Challenge accepted!)
The reputation of Green on Earth resides not only in how good the vegetarian dishes are, but is preceded by how unforgivingly spicy the mala bowls can get too. Despite being seasoned spice eaters, we ended up erring on the side of caution and settled for medium (out of low, medium, and high) spice.
After the first couple of bites, we were thankful we did not push for the maximum spice level. Unlike most places that temper the ma (or numbness) half of mala, you get the full numb-spicy experience here without any punches pulled.
Despite the bite of spice, it does not detract from the flavours of the other ingredients. The mala sauce was much more fragrant than many other variants we have tried, holding in its complexity a light smokiness and a hint of sweetness past the spice bite.
The real star of the show for us were the mock meats. Unlike the uniform starchy composition of the more typical versions, the ones here have distinct flavour profiles. This is done by varying the spices and ratios of mushrooms and vegetarian proteins to mimic their actual counterparts. The result is a unique taste experience where you can discern the separate ‘meats’ on your palate.
Would we suggest Green on Earth to people who are not vegetarian? You bet! Even though everyone’s priority is different when it comes to what makes a good mala xiang guo, Green on Earth ticks all the individual components that make up the dish’s namesake.
Mala xiang guo enthusiasts, if you are in the vicinity, pop by Green on Earth for a vegetarian spice experience unlike any other!
(For those wondering, we did finish all but a few beancurd skins in the end!)
Green on Earth
2 Phoenix Road
Daily: 11am – 9.30pm
Tel: +65 6769 2230
Nearest Station: Phoenix (LRT)